The injury to Aaron Rodgers has rocked the NFC North.
With Rodgers at quarterback, the Packers have won the North in five of the last six seasons. But he suffered a broken collarbone in a loss to Minnesota in Week 6, and his departure from the lineup has opened the door for all comers in the division. And the biggest beneficiary appears to be the Detroit Lions.
We asked our listeners and readers in our weekly Talk of Fame Network poll which team would win the NFC North now, and the Lions won in a landslide, receiving 48 percent of the vote. The Minnesota Vikings were next at 33 percent, followed by the Packers at 14 percent and the Bears at five percent.
The love for the Lions has one simple root.
“The Lions have the only franchise quarterback in the division,” Talk of Fame Network host Clark Judge said. “Matt Stafford is the highest-paid player in the game, and this is the perfect opportunity to prove why.”
His fellow Talk of Fame Network hosts Rick Gosselin and Ron Borges were split, with Gosselin siding with Judge and Borges the Vikings.
“The choice came down to the quarterback of the Lions or the defense of the Vikings,” Gosselin said. “The fact that the Lions have already beaten the Vikings on the road nudged me in Detroit’s direction.”
Stafford signed a $135 million contract this summer that made him the NFL’s highest-paid player, and he quarterbacked the Lions to nine victories and a wild-card playoff spot in 2016. Detroit was a flawed team with no rushing attack and a sub-par defense last season. The same problems exist this season. The Lions rank 26th in the NFL in rushing and 19th in defense.
But Stafford has magic in his right arm when it matters. His 19 fourth-quarter comebacks since 2011 are tops among NFL quarterbacks.
The Vikings are down to their second choice at both quarterback and running back because of injuries to Sam Bradford and Dalvin Cook. But head coach and defensive guru Mike Zimmer has crafted a Top-5 defense at Minnesota this season with one of the NFL’s top rushes. The Vikings rank sixth in the NFL with 21 sacks.
"I'll take the Vikings defense over Matthew Stafford's need to keep coming up with those fourth-quarter comebacks," Borges said.
The Vikings are currently 5-2, the Packers 4-3, the Lions 3-3 and the Bears 3-4.